When I visited Köln on my way back from Berlin in May, I had two coffee shops to visit, The Coffee Gang and Ernst Kaffeeröster. However, I quickly added a third, Blooming Coffee Bar, which came highly recommended by the locals. Blooming Coffee Roastery & Coffee Bar (in true German fashion, it’s both roaster and coffee shop) only opened its coffee bar last summer, on Leonhard-Tietz-Straße in the city centre, although the roasting part has been going for a little longer.
As a coffee shop, it’s very modern, with a clean interior design and décor. It’s the first coffee shop I’ve visited that uses the Decent Espresso machine, which was designed with the home market in mind. There’s a choice of two single-origins, served from a very concise menu, while for filter, there’s batch brew and four single-origins, each matched to either V60 or Kalita Wave. There’s also a selection of tea and a small collection of cakes/pastries.
The design aesthetic extends to the cups and servers (both by Kinto) for the filter coffee, while for espresso, there are some gorgeous ceramic Aoomi cups, handmade in Poland. Naturally, they’re all available to buy, along with the coffee beans and tea.
I didn’t know much about Coffee Circle before travelling to Berlin at the start of May. However, enough people recommended Coffee Circle to me once I arrived that I added it to my list. Coffee Circle began as a roastery specialising in direct trade in 2010, only opening its first café three years ago (in Wedding, Berlin, in the same building complex as the roastery). Since then, there have been two more, one on Bergmannstraße near Tempelhof and the other, the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, on Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße in the heart of Mitte.
From the street, there isn’t much to Coffee Circle, but inside, the café goes a long way back, all the way to the rear of the building, where windows look into a modern courtyard. There’s space for 12 people at tables outside on the pavement, while there’s plenty more seating in the spacious interior. A very limited (and entirely vegetarian) snack menu is joined by a selection of cake, but the real draw is the coffee, all roasted in-house, with the Cerrado, a naturally-processed Brazilian coffee, on espresso, joined by a regularly-changing second single-origin option, along with another single-origin on batch brew and two more on pour-over.
COFFI is another recent addition to Liverpool’s speciality coffee scene which came highly recommended. Located on a cobbled street running parallel to Hope Street, there’s a lovely view of Liverpool’s Church of England Cathedral (not to be confused with Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, which is at the other end of Hope Street). COFFI opened in the late spring of 2021 in a lovely old coach house, which provides a unique setting for the coffee shop. There’s limited seating inside at a long table, while there are four benches outside on the quiet street.
The real draw, however, is the coffee, with owners Nat + Mike, who cut their coffee teeth in Bucharest, selecting some outstanding beans from Europe’s best roasters, brewing from a concise espresso-based menu with batch-brew filter and pour-over options. Berlin’s Five Elephant and London’s Assembly were on the shelves when I visited, but these change every two to three weeks, so you’re going to need to hurry to catch them. Meanwhile, if you’re hungry, there’s a small selection of cakes available.
Ben Rahim, one of Berlin’s lesser-known speciality coffee names (outside of Berlin that is), came highly recommended by various people, both online and in other Berlin speciality coffee shops that I visited. It also features in the Double Skinny Macchiato guide to Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg. Ben Rahim is unusual in that its owner is from Tunisia and, having recently opened a shop in Tunis, it’s technically an international coffee shop chain (of two).
Ben Rahim opened in 2015, occupying a small shop on an alleyway leading into the famous Hackesche Höfe in Mitte in the heart of Berlin. Towards the end of 2019, Ben Rahim expanded into the adjacent space, now its current home, when the previous tenants, a clothes shop, moved out. All the coffee is roasted in Berlin on behalf of Ben Rahim, with a blend, a single-origin and decaf on espresso, backed up by a blend and two more single-origins on filter via the Clever Dripper. True to its Tunisian origins, these two single-origins are also offered via the ibrik, along with a range of signature drinks and a small selection tea, all backed up by a small range of cakes, pastries and filled croissants.
Press Bros. Coffee was recommended by my old friends at Neighbourhood Coffee when I visited Liverpool two weeks ago. Founded by three brothers who, in 2018, bought a converted Piaggio coffee van, Press Bros. began life in the Baltic Market (where the Piaggio is still going strong). Three years later, in October 2021, Press Bros. opened its first bricks and mortar store on Lark Lane in Aigburgh, south of the city centre and a stone’s throw from Sefton Park.
Press Bros. has come a long way from the Piaggio van, with Lark Lane, the subject of today’s Coffee Spot, offering a lot more than coffee. There’s an all-day brunch menu, sandwiches and cakes, along with tea and a range of draught and canned beer, plus wine and cocktails. When it comes to coffee, Neighbourhood provides a bespoke house blend on espresso, where it’s joined by a guest espresso, which changes every month. There are also a couple of filter options, which are matched to a specific preparation method. For June, this was Neighbourhood’s Born Sipping, a naturally-processed coffee from smallholders in the Konga region of Ethiopia (AeroPress) and the Las Guerreras, a Mexican single-origin from Girls Who Grind (V60).
Monday’s Coffee Spot is Bloom Building and Coffee, a chance discovery made while researching my trip to The Wirral two weeks ago. On an industrial estate in Birkenhead, it’s an interesting place, combining café, bar and venue space with hosting the Open Door Charity, which supports the mental wellbeing of young people across Merseyside, funded, in part, by Bloom Building’s profits. It also offers hot desking space and meeting rooms.
Unsurprisingly, my focus is on Bloom Building and Coffee in its role as a café, where you have a choice of any of the building’s public spaces, including the terrace, main venue/bar and mezzanine, all housed in the brightly-coloured industrial unit that’s been Bloom Building’s home since it opened in 2019. The coffee is from local roasters, Adams + Russell, which has its roastery (and shop) a 20-minute walk away. You’ll find an Ethiopian Sidamo on espresso, along with a Costa Rica decaf, both served from a concise menu, along with tea, hot chocolate and a range of soft drinks. As befits a bar, there’s a wide selection of beer, cider, wine and spirits. If you’re hungry, you can choose from a small range of cakes, pastries and vegan sandwiches/wraps.
When it comes to speciality coffee in Köln, Ernst Kaffeeröster is one of the city’s pioneers, having first opened in 2014 on Bonner Straße, in the new town south of the centre. In true German fashion, Ernst Kaffeeröster is both coffee shop and roaster, and you can still see the original roaster, a 5 kg Diedrich, behind the counter at Bonner Straße, although these days it’s only used to roast some of the single-origins. Instead, there’s a 20 kg roaster in a dedicated facility, which opened in 2016, while in April, a month before my visit, a second coffee shop was opened on Weyertal, near the university.
The original Ernst Kaffeeröster is a modest spot, offering a handful of tables inside, plus two more outside on the pavement, along with a solitary bench. The draw is the coffee, with a blend and single-origin on espresso, along with batch brew, AeroPress and Kalita Wave if you prefer filter coffee. The single-origin espresso changes every month, while for AeroPress and Kalita Wave, you can have any of Ernst Kaffeeröster’s filter coffees. There’s also tea, hot chocolate, various cold coffee options and, if you’re hungry, a selection of pastries, cakes, baguettes and granola.
In a city where coffee and cake is the business model for the majority of speciality coffee shops, Berlin’s Father Carpenter stands out for its coffee and brunch approach, no doubt influenced by its Australian owner. Since 2015, Father Carpenter has been serving excellent coffee and fantastic brunches from an amazing courtyard just off Münzstraße in the heart of Mitte, where you can sit outside in the courtyard or be shown to a table in the spacious dining room (Father Carpenter has table service).
Its secluded setting makes Father Carpenter the perfect escape from the hustle of the Mitte’s busy streets, although be aware that it’s very busy itself, often with a wait for a table. I popped by on three separate occasions (four if you count Friday evening, when it was closed) and it was only on my last visit that I was able to get a table without a wait.
Father Carpenter has a concise but interesting brunch menu, along with a small selection of baguettes and pastries. There’s a standard espresso-based menu with non-dairy alternatives and decaf, along with two filter options: regular or exotic, plus loose leaf tea, various iced options and a selection of soft drinks.
On my way back from my recent visit to Berlin, I stopped in Köln for a few days, a city I’d previously only passed through. With just a couple of days to explore, I found a vibrant (albeit small but growing) speciality coffee scene, starting with The Coffee Gang, conveniently located around the corner from my hotel (which might have influenced my choice of lodging). In all, I visited three times, twice for breakfast, once for coffee and cake.
The Coffee Gang, which recently opened a second location north of the centre, has been serving up excellent coffee to the good folks of Köln since 2014. Located just north of the major interchange of Barbarossaplatz on the eastern side of the broad Hohenstaufenring, The Coffee Gang offers a bespoke espresso blend through a standard menu, plus two single-origins (all roasted by Munich’s JB Kaffee) on either batch brew or AeroPress. There’s also limited breakfast and lunch menus, plus various cakes. You can either sit outside, where six tables occupy the broad pavement in front of The Coffee Gang, or inside, where you have a choice of any of the 15 hexagonal tables which are mostly down the right-hand side.
When asking about speciality coffee in The Wirral, the long peninsular that I can see from my bedroom window every morning which stops North Wales from bumping into Liverpool, one name that consistently comes up is Bebington’s Blooming Skull Coffee. So, when setting off on Monday for a day-trip to The Wirral, it was always going to be my first stop.
Describing itself as a coffee shop and general store, you could be forgiven, on first glance, of thinking that Blooming Skull Coffee’s a coffee shop and florist (it’s not). Blooming Skull is takeaway only (so don’t forget to bring your own cup), although there is a solitary bench outside on the busy Bebington Road. The Penny Rock seasonal single-origin from Red Bank is on espresso, where it’s joined by a guest roaster (Plot Roasting during my visit) on batch brew, plus a range of cakes baked on the premises.